Obama delivers powerful pledge

US President Barack Obama speaking in Newtown, 16 December 2012 Barack Obama referred to the four mass killings that have happened under his presidency

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President Obama has promised to use the power of his office to do all he can to prevent another massacre of the innocent.

He didn't directly mention gun control, but speaking in front of an audience of the bereaved and their friends in Newtown, it is the strongest pledge a president has ever made to wrestle with the powerful gun lobby.

He spoke not from the Oval Office, or some grand convention centre, but at a prayer vigil that could have been in any small town.

It all seemed so familiar.

At the beginning the blue curtains were pulled back either side of the stage, people of all ages sat in the rows of chairs, the piano played familiar tunes, a baby interrupted with a cry.

It could have been a village hall anywhere in this country or our own, about to celebrate a nativity or watch a pantomime.

But it wasn't just any where, it was Newtown.

This simple, homespun service brought home the sense that an ordinary place and ordinary people have been struck by a blow so grotesquely out of the ordinary that it makes a country beg for meaning.

Struggling for a response

Yet it isn't out of the ordinary at all.

Start Quote

Are we really prepared to say that we're powerless in the face of such carnage”

End Quote Barack Obama

As the president pointed out, there have been four such mass murders during his presidency, punctuated by other killings, almost weekly tragedies.

As a late arrival here, I really get the feeling of a country struggling to find an appropriate response to this home-grown horror.

I have heard questions about video games, violence, young men and mental health.

TV stations have aired discussion about God's will, and with near desperation seek stories of heroism to redeem an American narrative.

But it keeps coming back to that assault rifle that was used to murder so many.

It is hard for many in Britain to understand the meaning of guns in America, the association with rights and freedoms.

To some the constitutional guarantee of the right to bear arms is a bulwark against tyranny, as well as a means of practical self-protection.

But the president spoke of the desperate need of parents to do all they can to protect their children and asked:

"Are we really prepared to say that we're powerless in the face of such carnage, that the politics are too hard?

"Are we prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?"

As yet supporters of liberal gun laws remain silent, doubtless hoping the wave of emotion will pass from the headlines and nothing will change.

Mark Mardell Article written by Mark Mardell Mark Mardell North America editor

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  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    The right to bear arms is a core American tradition and if anything the court system has been moving in favor of increased liberty in this area, not less. There are many gun enthusiasts who understand responsibility and the value of life, and I oppose any new laws that would penalize them for the actions of lone, insane gunmen. I want my children to be safe, yes, but I'd rather they be free.

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    We should take a lesson from the Israelis:

    To combat terrorist attacks, certain teachers are trained and are armed. As a result these henious acts have been halted.

    There is no way to take the amount of guns in the U.S out of circlation

  • rate this

    Comment number 219.

    204.Icannot B Serious

    Gun ownership in America is not an emotional attachment. It is also not about hunting. I own several firearms and do not hunt. It is an innate right not given to us by government but rather protected from government infringement by the Constitution. Obama is a narcissist who uses the pain and suffering of others to get his way.

  • rate this

    Comment number 192.

    ref #190190.Icannot B Serious
    2 Minutes ago
    Americans have always treated their fellow citizens, their environment and the rest of the world with rapacious contempt.
    We also hate being lectured to by people (most of whom) have not contributed anything close to civilization to what our nation has.

  • rate this

    Comment number 83.

    75People kill each in different ways in different countries.In England where they don't have firearms they use knives.We have a record of zero demagogues becomng despots, zero holocausts.Only time Native Americans weren't massacred by the USgovernment in the 19th century was when they were armed and could fight back at Little Big Horn.Europeans don't get it.Government IS the problem not the cure.


Comments 5 of 595



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